Art1 2

Castles (1984)

Castles (1984), by Alan Lee and David Day, even mimics the trade dress of the Larkin book, to the point that I thought it was part of the series. Nope! Though it certainly feels like a spiritual continuation. Perhaps more importantly, it marks the first collaboration between Lee and Day and contains, I believe, Lee’s first published paintings of Middle Earth, an important step in his larger artistic legacy.

Similar to Knights, the idea here is to provide a sort of gloss of interesting stories involving castles. These are from myth and fiction — there is little interest here for a David Macaulay style look at real world castle construction. Through this, you get many of the same stories from Arthur’s court and the wars of Charlemagne and elsewhere in digestible summaries.

I feel like after a certain number of pages, one castle is going to be as interesting to look at as any other castle, especially with so few paintings featuring the people who live in the castles. That’s kind of true, but Lee’s watercolors are sort of endlessly inviting to the eye. So yes, stones, piled high, with some walls, page after page, but there is variety here, enough that I’m always happy to flip through it.

My favorite painting in the lot though has nothing to do with castles. It’s the portrait of Meliagante, dressed in the only suit of platemail to rival the creepy awesomeness of Mordred’s suit in Excalibur (1981). Seriously, look at that helmet! The demon pauldrons are great (the influence of Froud, no doubt) and that hellmouth shield, too! What a villain!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *